4:32pm Friday 16th August 2013
By Stuart Arnold
PASSENGERS could be put off using some train services altogether as a result of timetable changes, an MP claims.
Labour MP Alex Cunningham said First TransPennine Express’s rescheduling of hourly train services from Middlesbrough to Manchester from 50 minutes past the hour to 28 minutes past from May next year would leave passengers facing lengthy waits for connecting services on Teesside.
Mr Cunningham said the changes, along with Northern Rail’s decision not to re-time any of its Durham Coast services, would mean for instance that passengers getting off at Thornaby and wanting to transfer onto Northern’s service would have to wait 36 minutes for the next train rather than the current 15 minutes.
Those changing in the opposite direction from a Durham Coast train to TransPennine services would wait even longer – 54 minutes, as opposed to the current 17 minutes.
Mr Cunningham, who represents Stockton North, said passengers travelling from stations such as Stockton, Billingham, Hartlepool and Sunderland would be similarly affected.
Last year Teesside saw some of the biggest increases in rail travel anywhere in the region, according to official figures, with journeys up more than 12 per cent from Hartlepool and more than seven per cent from Stockton.
Mr Cunningham claimed there had not been proper consultation and called on the train operators to look again at the matter.
He said: “Good connections between these services are vital to the efficient operation of the rail network across the region and to the Tees Valley economy.
“This would substantially lengthen journey times for many rail users and could deter them from using these services altogether.”
A spokesman for First TransPennine Express said the timetable changes were necessary in order to accommodate a new £60m fleet of trains which will provide an additional 30 per cent capacity across its network, including on services in and out of Middlesbrough.
He said there had been a rigorous consultation process and added: "Timetable planning is highly complex and local impacts need to be balanced against the wider regional benefits and the greatest overall efficiencies, but we are convinced that increased capacity, faster journeys and improved travel options will meet with the approval of the majority of passengers."
A Northern Rail spokeswoman said its Durham Coast services were timetabled carefully to run in conjunction with Tyne and Wear Metro services, along with intercity services on the East Coast Main Line.
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